Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I work with authors all the time. One of my jobs is to "fix" manuscripts and to help the author find his way with what he's saying. I'm sort of the "stepping stone" between an author and an editor, if needed. Mostly, I've done fiction. This leaves me with little time for my own writing, but I'm working on that, because if you are a writer, you find the time. This week in a favorite comic strip (I used to have a comic strip in HS, so that's another thing I love,) "For Better or Worse" by Lynn Johnston, character Michael is writing a book. Go to http://www.fborfw.com/strip_fix/ and go back to Saturday to catch up on it. I laugh with the familiarity of it. Everything in this comic on writing a book is something I've either heard firsthand or overheard other people ask/say to a writer.

I always wonder how someone could write in coffee shops or restaurant (or cafes, for that matter) and get anything done. Complete strangers will come up to someone writing and feel free to ask all kinds of questions about it. Usually the verbal exchange will end with, "Oh, you know, I could write a book. But I don't have as much time as you." In other words, the writer MAKING time to write is obviously a layabout and lazy person who gets scads of money and probably smokes and drinks (or at least drinks coffee) and eats DeBrand's chocolate all day (well, maybe he does, but I've found that most don't.) The words go on the page like pouring melted butter on hot bread with an ending to leave the reader full and satisfied.

As one writer said, "Writing's easy. Just open a vein." My friend, W. Terry Whalin, a writer and an editor at Howard Books, has written a very helpful book, Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. He says in this book, "Jerrold Jenkins, CEO of this group [Jenkins Group,] estimates that more than 6 million Americans have actually written a manuscript--just over 2 percent of the population. Publishers Weekly recently said that more than 1,000 books were published each week during 2003."

That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. Writing the book is the first battle, but getting it published is a whole new battle. If you have a desire to write a book, then the only thing to do is FIND THE TIME to write first. But more importantly, you must find out all you can about writing craft, professionalism and the proper channels to take in order to sell your book. This takes time, too, as any published author will tell you. But again, the first thing to do is put your behind in the chair and crank out the story. It helps if you have an ending, but most authors will tell you that they did not just sit there and it was instantly published. There is a lot of stuff in between all those lines.

How do you find the time? Well, you cut something out in order to become proficient at that thing you desire. A doctor doesn't just decide to be a doctor and walk into a hospital and say, "I'm going to doctor on you." So, a wannabe writer doesn't just call up an editor and say, "Hey, I've got this idea for a book, I know you're going to love." Or worse, you don't approach a writer and say, "I have a great idea for you to write for me." (Believe me, most authors have enough of their own ideas. That's another business relationship entirely--one YOU pay for.) One prolific author I know was a full-time wife, full-time mom/then grandmother and a court reporter. She typed all day long. But when she decided to start writing fiction and "live her dream," she took a night class with author/professor, Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, at the university where he started a professional writing major in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Taylor University. She got up extra early every morning to write, never knowing if she’d ever publish. She is not a morning person. And she still had to work all day—typing more! Then, she’d go to her night class once a week.

Today she is doing what she loves—an "overnight success"--Diann Hunt took many years to become that overnight success, and a lot of behind in her chair. You can check out her blog with her writing buddies at http://www.girlswriteout.blogspot.com/. She’s the one with the temporary RV, but every one of the others started (and still do) by making the decision to WRITE and to give up something in their lives in order to do what they love. Where you spend your time says a lot about what you are passionate about--but you have to make choices.


Terry Whalin said...


You are so right. It's a matter of focus--and spending time writing--to get the work done. There are many things calling for our attention but which ones get it? It will make a difference on what is accomplished.

Great post. Keep up the good work.

The Writing Life

Diann Hunt said...

How did you know I would be struggling with that sitting down and getting it typed thing today? ;-) My house is sparkling clean. I've written as many emails as I dare, had more coffee than a body has a right to, read more blogs that humanly possible and my story is still patiently waiting for my attention.

I'll finish this note and get to work--right after I . . . . ;-)

Great blog, Crystal!

Cara Putman said...

Okay, Crystal. Here's our challenge. I have to write 2000 words at least five days a week to be where I need to be by conference. Hold me accountable. Now what's your goal/commitment?